Tuesday, 30 December 2008

classic poems about dogs

Tonight a good friend gave me a small book of old poems and pictures about dogs. It's called 'A Classic Illustrated Treasury; Dogs'. The illustrations and poems date from the 1890s to the 1950s.

I think my favorite would have to be the one by Rudyard Kipling
When the Man waked up he said,
"What is the Wild Dog doing here?"
And the Woman said,
"His name is not Wild Dog any more,
but the First Friend,
because he will be our friend
for always and always and always."

I thought that was a pretty good summary of a hundred thousand years of history - or fifteen thousand, depending on which archaeological study you believe.

And...I just noticed it is Rudyard Kipling's birthday today!

Monday, 29 December 2008

looking after the dogs of military personnel

It must be the week for reading feel-good stories about dogs. I loved reading about a charity in the US that looks after the dogs of military personnel who are posted overseas. It was lovely to browse the site and see all the happy dogs that are NOT in search of a new home! Their humans will be coming back to get them, as soon as they can, I'm sure.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

German animal lovers help pets in need

Penny was eating her breakfast as I sat reading The Age newspaper today. When I read an article about a German organisation called Tiertafel I realised how lucky we are to be able to feed Penny well.

With times so hard all around the world, many people are having to make the hard decision to give up a much-loved pet because they have to choose between feeding themselves (or their children) - or feeding the pet.

Many elderly pensioners are in this sad situation and we all know that if an old pet is given up to a shelter it's unlikely to be adopted.

Tiertafel was set up to stop people having to make this awful choice. Pet owners in financial difficulty, short term or long term, can get free food for their pets.

There are about 19 of these free food outlets in Germany now. I had a look at a lovely feel-good video clip showing the 'pet soup-kitchen' in action in Berlin. Even if you don't speak German, it's a nice video to look at. First it shows 'two-legs' patiently queuing with their four-legged pals and then explains that people need to prove they are in need. Then we see volunteers bringing in donations and a lady explains that she's donated some food because she feels for people in this situation.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Animals suffer just as we do

I just opened my regular email from 'Word of the Day' and it ended with this quote:
All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.

The quote is from Peter Singer, philosopher and professor of bioethics (b. 1946)

This last few weeks or two I seem to have been confronted by the suffering of animals. First I read a short story by Annie Proulx that had something horrible in it, and even though I know it was a symbolic, mythological event, it disturbed me immensely. Then I received an email that was doing the rounds, describing something I couldn't believe humans would do to animals.

And I've been shopping for Christmas, determined to source only meat from animals that have not suffered during the time they were raised as a food source. Let me tell you, it's not easy to find meat that you can feel sure about.

So the thought for today seems very apt to me, as we celebrate Christmas together - I'd like to think we can live ethically alongside the other species that share our planet.

Monday, 22 December 2008

K9 Kompany christmas party 2008

Yesterday we attended the end-of-year party at K9 Kompany in Lilydale. It was great fun.
Penny was awarded second prize for doing tricks - weaving around my legs in a figure of eight.

We didn't enter the dress-up competition, because Penny shakes off any 'human' items if we try to put them on her.

The winners looked good, though!

I had great hopes for the 'Gambler's Agility' - in this game you race around the agility course, scoring points of different value, depending which activity you choose. The score goes back to zero if you choose an activity that the dog refuses - that's the gamble. Penny, as usual, did everything that was asked of her, so we should have done well - except that she did the weave poles in slow motion. Really s-l-o-w motion. Oh well, at least we gave the onlookers a good laugh.

We both had a great time. Here we are, laughing together.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

lost dog visits and Penny has fun

Each time we've found a stray dog and brought it home, Penny has been unfriendly. However, today I brought home a lovely little fellow who was wandering along a busy street and, surprisingly, Penny was overjoyed to have him here.

I'm wondering whether she behaved well because I had taken the visitor through the house and put him in a crate in the bedroom, closing the door and locking Penny into the other end of the house - I was late for an important appointment and didn't have time to take him to his owners. By the time I got home two hours later Penny was desperate to meet him.

They went for a stroll around the backyard before I took him home. Well, he strolled. Penny flew around him in circles, begging him to play. (He didn't.)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Melburnians unite to save the Lort Smith animal shelter

The Age newspaper reported recently that the Lort Smith Animal Hospital will no longer be allowed to operate as a pound.
VICTORIA'S largest animal hospital has been banned from finding new homes for cats and dogs lost in the City of Melbourne, as local pounds brace for a sharp increase in the number of pets dumped over Christmas.

After helping to rehouse abandoned pets for the past 75 years, Lort Smith Animal Hospital has suddenly been ordered by Melbourne City Council to transfer all seized animals to a North Melbourne pound.

I think it might be that someone realised there was an agreement that councils would licence only one pound in each municipality and once that information was reported the Council had to act on it. I'm not quite sure whether this is the exact story behind it, but it does beg the question - couldn't whoever noticed the problem have kept it under his or her hat till after Christmas, when we humans celebrate by treating animals as disposable goods?

This is what Lort Smith says about the present situation.

I have enough faith in the humanity of our councillors to imagine that they are dismayed to have to act in such an inhumane way right before Christmas, the season of pet abandonment and cruelty. I'm hopeful that they are working hard to resolve the issue. But it never hurts to let them know we care.

I went to the site where the email addresses of the Councillors are listed and wrote to them all.

If you would be able to write a letter to the Melbourne City Councillors, it would be great. If you want some ideas, there are letters that others have written, here and here.

I said:


I have read that the Lort Smith Animal Hospital has been forced to cut back its shelter operations due to a Melbourne City council decision, as reported in The Age newspaper.

For some years I have been a supporter of the work done by the Lort Smith Animal Hospital and I would like to register my disappointment with the Council’s action.

I realise that the decision may have come about through a discovery that the Hospital was inadvertently not complying with regulations, but I would hope that Melbourne City Council can work with the Hospital to urgently put some arrangements in place to care for lost animals at this critical time of the year.

Lort Smith provides an essential service for us all, in making Melbourne a place where animals are treated humanely, so that we can take pride in our city. If the Lost Dogs’ Home has to take on the numbers of animals who would otherwise have been sheltered at Lort Smith, I fear there will be an even greater number of innocent animals euthanased.

If Lort Smith has operated as a shelter under successive Councils for 75 years, without anyone acting on this discrepancy, it must appear that this newly elected Council is overly bureaucratic and inhumane – not a good image.

I urge you to work with the Hospital to resolve the issue in an imaginative and humane way, so that Melburnians can have faith that you are the leaders we want you to be.

Nina Ottosson toys for intelligent dogs to play with

Hooray! The toys from Clean Run arrived last Friday.

The one toy I am really waiting for is the super duper Dog Tornado that my friend is bringing from New York. I didn't think I could afford the postage, so she said she'd bring it in her luggage. She arrives tomorrow!

And then Johann told me there was to be a free postage offer from Clean Run for a short while, so I ordered the Spinny, the Brick and Dog Magic. I ordered them through Johann's site. (Now that I know the toys are lighter than I thought, and come so quickly, I'd be keen to order more things in the future.)

I ordered them on the 4th of December, so it took them only eight days to come to Australia. I'm amazed. And excited.

The first one Penny and I played with was quite easy - The Dog Spinny.

When Penny was confident with it - which took about three minutes! - I added a plastic bone that makes the task harder. She had to figure out how to get the bone out before she could turn the Spinny and get the treats.

Today we advanced to the second game, The Brick. We've only played the simplest version, so far.

When she is confident, I'll place more of the plastic bones in the middle spaces, to make it hard.

I can't wait for the Tornado - it looks like the hardest of them all.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

dogs walk in the lovely rain in Darebin Parklands

Rain, lovely rain has been falling in drought-stricken Melbourne for the last twenty- four hours.

We set off to see how it has affected the Darebin creek in our parkland - and found the creek is reaching the top of its banks. Our favorite swimming hole usually looks like this:

But today it looked like this:

In the second photo you can see just the top of the rocks on the left of the first photo.

The creek looked rather scary so we kept Penny on lead along the path, even though it's an off-lead area. I'm glad we did, because the ball she was holding in her mouth dropped into the raging waters and she lunged after it. It took a bit of convincing to get her to acknowledge that it was gone for good!

When we got to the bridge we usually cross to get back home we realised we'd have to take the long route today:

That's the bridge in the centre of the picture, surrounded by the junk that came down with the flood waters.

And guess what? As we made our way along the path, what did we see?

Yes, our tennis ball, caught in the flotsam!

We saw other dogs walking with their people, but it seemed as if only dog walkers were out braving the rain.

Friday, 12 December 2008

great pet health blogs

Dolittler (aka vet Dr. Patricia Khuly), who has a great blog, has compiled her own list of favorite pet health blogs. Definitely worth a visit!

dog groomer who lets owners watch

Today Penny visited a grooming salon where owners are welcome to watch the grooming through a big glass window. I'm very happy with the result.

The groomer not only welcomed me to stay, but was also quite willing to discuss what cut I wanted Penny to get. He told me how he would usually style a dog like this, but was happy to accommodate my wish that Penny's fur be left long on top.

As you can see, Penny also got a Christmas card!

I've been envious in the past of posts by Amber-Mae about the grooming salons in Malaysia that let people stay with their dogs - and now we have one too!

By the way, for those who live in Melbourne, the salon is Yuppy Puppy, in Macleod.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

more on the recall of KraMar dog treats

Here is a link to the KraMar media release on the recall.

And here is the text of an email that is circulating. I notice that it seems to be by Miles Kemp, author of the article I linked to in my previous post, but the text seems to be somewhat different. I think it's worth posting here for the extra information it contains.

poisoned meat is causing kidney damage in small dogs

By Miles Kemp

The Advertiser

December 09, 2008

Poisoned meat

Alert ... hundreds of small dogs have been affected by poisoned meat as
experts try to track down its source.

* Hundreds of dogs hit in poison scare
* Experts try to track down source
* Meat from China suspected

UNIVERSITY experts are urgently trying to track down the source of a deadly
poison which has struck hundreds of small dogs, with pet food meat from
China the suspected cause.

The Australian Veterinary Association has issued a national warning to all
vets to report any serious kidney damage in small dogs in the past month.

"We have only become aware of this in the last three or four weeks, and we
need to make people aware there are some clear indications there is a
problem out there," AVA national president Mark Lawrie told The Advertiser

Mr Lawrie said the AVA had discussed the cases with a prominent pet-food
supplier suspected to be the source of the poison, which the AVA would not
name for legal reasons. Vets and small-dog owners have been told to look out
for warning signs:

INCREASED thirst and urination.

Related Coverage,

REDUCED appetite and lethargy.

VOMITING and weakness.

University of Sydney researchers have issued a national alert over the
kidney-destroying poison - but after a legal threat from the company, have
been banned by the university from making any public comment.

The AVA had also warned vets - in a national alert to all members to be
aware of the problem - against making comments to the media about the case.

One university researcher, who would not be named, said there was enough
evidence to recall the product but the safety message had been hampered by
threats from the company.

"We have not been able to call for cases and an open call to vets for cases
has just been made and we are aware of dozens of cases and suspect there are
hundreds," he said. "What is important is that the meat is sourced in China
and I think pet owners can trust the product if all the ingredients are
sourced in Australia."

The researcher said owners should be concerned about any breed but
especially dogs the size of a small terrier.

Studies of dead dogs are also being carried out to identify the cause, with
one brand of meat suspected of causing symptoms.

Vets have been urged to contact the University of Sydney Faculty of
Veterinary Science via email A.Arteaga@usyd.edu.au if they have suspected
cases of the poisoning.

KraMar chicken treats recalled - made in China

On the ABC news tonight there was a report that KraMar dried chicken treats are being recalled because of a suspicion that they are poisoning dogs.There is also a report on the AdelaideNow site.
Dogs who are affected may be drinking and urinating a lot, be unusually lethargic or vomiting.

I'm glad now that I'm a worrier. A couple of months ago I stopped feeding these great-looking treats because I like to read the fine print on things and I noticed they are made in China. Nowadays I don't feed anything to Penny unless I know all ingredients were sourced in Australia or New Zealand or unless the packet specifies no ingredients come from China.

I actually have a packet of these KraMar treats in the cupboard. I didn't want to feed them to her, but the treats appeared so healthy that it seemed a pity to throw them out.

Now I will throw them out!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

a crostic puzzled based on a book about dogs

When I mentioned to one of my brothers that I had read an interesting book about a dog, he decided to make up a crostic puzzle based on an excerpt from that book. He regularly posts crostic puzzles but I've reproduced the puzzle here because when he changes his puzzles the old ones are lost.

I keep telling him to start a blog, so his puzzles can be archived!

Here it is, for your enjoyment. You would need to print the puzzle grid and the clues if you want to solve it. They are images, so I think it won't be too hard to print them.If you have problems getting them here, you could go to his website and print them. (There are links to clues on his site, if you get desperate.)

Let me know if you enjoy puzzles like this and I'll ask him to make up more (with a dog theme).

This kind of puzzle is called a Crostic.

The diagram is not a crossword. It is an exerpt from a piece of writing. Words end at the shaded squares, not (necessarily) at the end of lines. No punctuation is given.

Answer the clues as best you can, then transpose the letters to the squares with the matching numbers. (The letter in the square tells which clue it is from.) Then you try to recognise words on the diagram, and complete them. Then you transpose those letters back, etc., until the whole thing is finished. Three letter words may be "the", one letter words are usually 'a' or 'I'.

As an extra help, the first letters of the answers usually spell the name of the author, and the work the extract is from. (That's where the name, Crostic, comes from.)

The diagram, and the clues, are pictures, which I hope you can download and print (or it's going to be a very difficult puzzle!)

This one has three clues about dogs, and is based on a book about a dog, but it should be fairly straighforward. One of the dog names is unusual.

Grid (click on the grid to get a bigger image):

Clues (click on the clues to get a bigger image):

Thursday, 4 December 2008

free shipping of nina ottosson toys over the next couple of days

Johann's mum added a comment on my post about intelligent toys for dogs and told me that the US company Clean Run is shipping items with free postage until 8th December, if you spend more than $100.

I just had to give it a try, even though the Australian dollar is so bad compared to the US dollar at the moment. It sure seemed as if the items are going to ship to Australia with no cost for postage. To say I'm excited would be an understatement, as I've ordered THREE of the Nina Ottosson toys. I ordered them through Johann's own site, where part of the profits go to shelters and rescue organisations.

If they come by sea, I guess it might be months before I see them, but it will be fun waiting for them. I can't remember who said it's the journey that counts, not the arrival. Similarly, we Australians are experts at enjoying the anticipation of a parcel sailing across the planet to us.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

dogs are in danger if they eat Xylitol sugar substitute

Reading Dolittler's blog today I was surprised to learn the extent of the danger the sugar-substitute Xylitol presents to dogs.

Since I read her previous posts on the danger of this product I've been been warning my friends not to feed anything with artificial sweeteners - but I didn't realise that Xylitol is used now in Rescue Remedy and in some multivitamins.

Dolittler (a practising vet in the US) says that more dogs are poisoned by TicTacs than by any other product, partly because they have such a high level of Xylitol and partly because they are so ubiquitous.

An online article by Sherrill Sellman says that the Finns rediscovered Xylitol during a sugar shortage in World War Two, making it from birch bark. It had been first manufactured in 1891 by a German chemist.

Snopes.com has an account of a nearly fatal accidnet where a dog ate a couple of pieces of chewing gum.

I guess the message is, don't feed your dog anything produced for humans, unless you research the ingredients first.

Monday, 24 November 2008

toys to enhance a dog's intelligence

I've been talking to Johann's mum about her post regarding Nina Ottosson's toys for intelligent play and I've finally figured out a way to get one - a friend is going to bring me the Dog Tornado from Clean Run in the US when she comes over here for Christmas.

Fingers crossed that it gets to her before she leaves and that it's not too heavy!

In the meantime, Penny's still extending herself to solve the puzzle of the balls that disappear into a game I made out of pvc pipes in December last year. Because we're experiencing a drought here, we've had water tanks put in and there were some old pipes left over, so I've extended the pipe game. Here's Penny trying unsuccessfully to use the techniques that worked with the shorter version.I had to put it on YouTube because I couldn't get it uploaded to Blogger.

She thought we were going to help her, but we weren't, so she tried again - this time she gets it right. I love the way her tail is wagging throughout.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

protecting a stunned blackbird from a dog

Yesterday, in the middle of some wild weather a blackbird flew into our back window. The last time this happened, I wasn't quick enough to stop Penny racing out to see what had happened and picking up the bird in her mouth. Needless to say, that bird didn't survive - perhaps it died from a crushed ribcage or maybe it died of shock.

But this time I was quick off the mark. I shut the baby gates.

The bird stayed in the same place for about two hours, first lying on its side and then sitting upright.

I'm pleased to say it flew away eventually. Let's hope it was well enough to survive

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

dogs protecting crops from king parrots

An important part of a dog's work is to protect their humans from predators. And Penny was on the job today.

Now, if you look at this photo you might see beauty, not danger...

Ahah! But what if you were the gardener who had lovingly tended your cherry trees, waiting, waiting, waiting as the tiny fruits swelled with juicy tenderness? What if you had strolled outside to admire your burgeoning crop - only to see this fruit thief brazenly scoffing your tender little fruitlets?

What if you were minding your own business and this stealer of crops came tapping on your window, demanding you come out and feed him? (Not satisfied with the cherries, you note!)

I think you might be glad that your dog, having practised each night on possum-chasing, transferred her skills to king parrot duty. Penny did her best, but being a ground-dwelling mammal, her parrot-scaring abilities were limited.

In fact, I'd say the parrots didn't give a hoot. Secure in the knowledge that they are incredibly beautiful and attractive, they just got on with the business of seducing the humans into feeding them.

Okay, I'll have to admit it. I forgave them for the cherry theft.

Yes, I did feed them.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

dogs at the Lilydale show

In the last post I mentioned that Penny took part in a demonstration by K9 Kompany at the Lilydale Show today. It was a tiring day because she participated in four sessions, but her tail was still wagging at the end of the day, so I'd say she had a great time.

Here she is showing 'stand calmly for a vet's examination', one of the items from Ideal Dog.

We enjoyed All Sports, which is a mix of tricks, obedience and agility. Penny loves the seesaw and it was great to have so many turns on it.

dogs train for film work

Today the K9 Kompany presented a series of demonstrations for the public at the Lilydale show.

Penny and I took part in two types of demonstration - Ideal Dog of Australia and All Sports.

But we were onlookers at the highlight of the day, Animal Actors, because we're not in that class.

It was interesting to see how the tricks we're learning in All Sports could be developed into film work. Cindy and two students demonstrated that dogs need to learn to do tricks at a distance because the trainer can't be visible in the film.

A small piece of tape on the floor marked the nearest point the trainer was allowed to approach the dog during filming. I've taken a shot here from a different angle, showing the trainer's hand at right - you can see the dog watching her.

The story behind the filming was that Cindy was reading the paper and the dogs would try to get her attention. One of the dogs jumped up on the couch with her, barked and laid its head on her leg. When all this failed, it pushed a roller across in front of her.

In this shot the trainer is not in view - this is how the shot would appear in a film.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Inspector Rex plays music, clever as always

Penny and I watched the Austrian crime show Inspector Rex again tonight and Rex was a canine genius as usual. One trick was to play a toy that involved pressing a section of the game to make a musical note sound. The part to be pressed was large and easily manipulated by a dog's paw.

It was an episode from season four, when he is with Brandtner - a story about a classical pianist who wants his son to be a famous performer. Of course, seeing it's such a great show for us dog-lovers, I won't give away any more of the plot.

He learned to play four notes, repeating them after a child character played them a couple of times for him. I think the piece that was played repeatedly in the show was Kinderszenen by Robert Schumann, and maybe the notes Rex played were from that piece. I've got a memory like a sieve, so the memory of what Rex played was gone half a minute after he did it.

But I'd certainly like to get my hands on the toy. I reckon Penny and I could have fun on it. I'd love to know how many notes she could memorise and I feel sure she could learn the basic idea of pressing buttons - for treats, of course. Penny's not inclined to work without being paid a fair wage!

I've browsed the internet, searching 'musical toys' but I guess I'd have to be lucky to stumble across the toy I want. But, as they say, you never know your luck in a big city, so I'll keep my eyes open when I'm in toy shops.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

German dog toys

I bought a new ball for Penny yesterday and it has proved to be a favorite for both human and dog.

She loves it presumably because it tastes, smells and bounces just right. (It must smell good because she was fixated on the bag before the ball even came into view.) I like it because it's colorful, tough and bouncy.

When I noticed the address of a German website on the label I dashed inside to check it out, because I find the European dog toy companies often have a good range of toys for intelligent play, which is one of my interests. Sure enough, when I went to Trixie, I found lots of dog equipment listed, and a selection of learning toys.

I really, really want to buy the 'Dog Activity Gamble Box" but I think the site is for wholesalers, not private buyers. The owners of my local shop recently attended a trade fair in Germany - maybe that is why the Trixie balls have suddenly appeared in the shop - but I haven't yet convinced them they should import the wooden range of learning toys. Aggghhh! It's so frustrating living on the other side of the planet from Europe.

I think the ball we have must be a hedgehog ball, but I'm not sure, as the description says this ball is soft and the one we have is quite hard.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

birds can warn dog owners of snake danger

Pay attention to the behavior of birds and you could save your dog from a snakebite.

This is the message I read in a letter by Steven Katsineris to our local paper, Heidelberg and Diamond Valley Weekly. It reinforces the message from our local park ranger, which I posted about recently. He had said to listen for constant chatter by nearby birds and try to see where they are looking, because they will have their eyes on the snake.

Steven Katsineris adds to that. He says he has seen birds diving at snakes - he specifically mentions noisy miners, little wattlebirds, eastern rosellas, magpies and says others will dive at an intruder also.

I respect Steven Katsineris' information (as I do that of our experienced ranger, of course), because Steven writes a column each month in a great little garden magazine, Australian Better Gardens and Home Ideas, that is available free at nurseries around Victoria. I enjoy all their articles, because I love my garden; but I particularly love it because it welcomes articles from freelance writers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

campaign to rehome dogs Home 4 the Holidays

Penny's blog received a comment a few days ago, asking me to promote a pet rehoming project called Home 4 the Holidays, which aims to place at least 1 million pets in loving and happy homes over the holiday season (Oct. 1, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009).

I hesitated for a while because I have a policy of not engaging in any marketing (except for the ads that appear if you click on my world map - I love the free map so much I couldn't resist it). The Home 4 the Holidays Program is backed by the petfood company Iams.

However, it is such a good cause that I think it deserves promotion.

These Australian shelters are taking part:
1. Greyhound Fan Club, Sydney NSW
2. NSW Animal Rescue Inc, Toongabbie
3. PetRescue, East Vic Park
4. PetsHaven, Woodend
5. RSPCA, Fairfield Gardens
6. Save Our Strays, Sydney NSW

1. Greyhound Fan Club, Sydney, is sponsored by Nutrience, which I take to be a subsidiary of Iams, and, strangely, they have an address that ends with .ru - a RUSSIAN web address. They have an adoption page with stories of dogs now in loving homes.

2. I rang NSW Animal Rescue, because at that stage I hadn't found their great site, with its sad and happy photos and stories of the work they do. Steve Austin is their sponsor. They are a voluntary organisation and have taken part in the Home 4 the Holidays program for the past few years. I spoke to one of their volunteers, who was most helpful.

3. PetRescue, East Victoria Park is a listing on a national register of rescue organisations - the actual name is 'shel', and at that site is listed as having rehomed ONE animal in the last year. I couldn't find out any more about them via the Web.

4. Pets Haven in Woodend in Victoria has its own site and lots of 'happy ending' stories of rehomed animals. They have a policy of keeping animals as long as possible, rather than euthanasing after a set time.

5. I guess the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) needs no explanation. Probably our best-known animal welfare agency.

6. Save Our Strays, Sydney NSW - I couldn't find an individual site for this organisation but they have lots of successful rehomings listed on PetRescue.

Here's the original comment that I received:
My name is Victoria, and I'm with Rocket XL, a marketing agency working out of Los Angeles. I wanted to invite you to join in a great project we're working on to help homeless dogs, cats & animals everywhere. We're working on a project for one of the world's most successful pet adoption drives, Home 4 the Holidays, which has set a goal to place at least 1 million pets in loving and happy homes over this holiday season (Oct. 1, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009). In fact, Home 4 the Holidays has 6 shelters participating in Australia alone this year!

With some help from animal-supporting bloggers like yourselves sharing the word about the program, and this year's Home 4 the Holidays celebrity spokesperson, Felicity Huffman and her beloved adopted dog Tucker, we know we can reach this goal! Last year alone, this pet adoption program helped nearly 500,000 families experience the joy of pet adoption. In fact, since it began in 1999, Iams Home for the Holidays has helped place more than 2 million pets into happy homes.

Monday, 3 November 2008

an assistance dog thinks of everything

Penny was resting at home today while I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room. In a new magazine - called, appropriately enough, Waiting Room - I read about a dog called Adonis who warns his owner of her imminent epileptic seizures. I can't give a link to Waiting Room itself, as it is a magazine only available to medical practitioners, but I did find the story of Adonis on the Net. (You have to click down three screens to find the story of Adonis.)

This is the part I loved - after alerting his owner, Alison Brennan, so that she could lie down and wait for help as she lapsed into unconsciousness,
Adonis opened the front door to let the ambulance officers in, dragged out his orange jacket identifying him as an 'assistance dog', brought over the house keys and picked up a backpack the officers assumed was his owner's overnight bag.

The ambulance raced Ms Brennan -- Adonis still by her side -- to a nearby hospital where it was discovered the assistance dog really had thought of everything. When the backpack was opened, it revealed, not a night-gown and toothbrush, but Adonis' favourite dog toys.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

happy dogs make a wordle

I was browsing Johann's blog (which I love) and saw a great image called a Wordle. I followed Johann's link and used the text from my post about whether dogs recognise human laughter and came up with this fun image.
I love wordles!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

robber jumps into police dog's yard

Penny and I love watching Inspector Rex. Well, I love watching it and Penny loves the chance to get on the furniture - she's allowed to lie on her special doona on the couch beside me when I'm watching the show.

Today I read in the Courier Mail an account of a suspected robber who jumped the fence into the backyard of an off-duty police dog in Brisbane - the article compared the heroic dog to Inspector Rex, when he chased the guy down the street and held him for the police to arrest.
I loved the bit at the end where the dog jumped into the police car to sit beside his prisoner. Yep, just like Rex.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

dogs recognise human laughter

When we were at K9 Kompany today enjoying the K9 Kup - our mini Melbourne Cup - I noticed that the dogs were excited and more active than usual. I thought Penny was trying very hard and watching me more closely than usual - and it seemed to me she was working for the reward of my laughter as much as the treats that she gets intermittently.

I feel sure dogs know what human laughter is.

I remember enjoying a cup of tea in a friend's house and taking no notice of the family labrador, who was lying under the table. He suddenly leaped up and barked to announce the arrival of a latecomer, and we all burst out laughing because we thought he'd been lazy about not announcing the other six people who had already arrived.

I might be guilty of anthropomorphism, but I would say that dog was humiliated by the laughter. He slunk away with his tail between his legs. (He cheered up pretty quickly.)

But the laughter today was different. It was silly laughter, fun laughter. Cindy, our teacher, was wearing a 'beautiful' hat, as one must if attending the Melbourne Cup, and we were enjoying the over-the-top competitiveness of it all. The dogs were leaping around and racing full pelt over and through the obstacles.

Science News, in 2001, published a item about the sounds dogs make when they are having fun - if you listen to the audio clip, it does sound different from normal panting. I'd love to think Penny was laughing too, as we raced around.

Dogs also can celebrate the Melbourne Cup

Today at K9 Kompany we competed in the K9 Kompany Kup, in celebration of the upcoming Melbourne Cup, our famous horse race.
And Penny won!

Here she is sitting proudly with the precious goblet.

Then she decided to check it out to see if there might be a treat in it.

And there was one - what a great reward for a wonderful effort.

Though perhaps I should admit that there were only two dogs in the races and that Penny has been attending K9 four times longer than her competitor. But dogs haven't heard of 'the level playing field' so we can celebrate without any qualms.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

can snakes and dogs share a garden?

I'm wondering whether I'm attracting snakes to my garden by setting out multiple bowls of water for wildlife. I've started to worry over the last couple of weeks, as the weather warms up. A couple of days ago the nesting blackbirds in our back garden got very agitated, chattering loud warnings and racing back and forth along the top of the fence. Seeing they are quite tame - underfoot, actually, when I'm gardening - I knew it wasn't Penny or I who was causing the uproar. I couldn't see a cat around, and Penny can generally sense a cat immediately it approaches our property.

There's also the fact that Penny spent ages sitting near that corner of the garden staring fixedly at the messy pile of old flower pots near the shed. Luckily I had fenced it off in case the blackbirds' babies fell out of the nest.

Our suburb has the unenviable reputation of being rife with snakes.

I'm most appreciative of a warning sent to the dog walkers this weekend about snake activity in Darebin Parklands, which is at the bottom of our street.
The warning came from Peter, the ranger. He included a map of snake sightings in the last two weeks.

Ten different locations. Wow! Scary!

Peter warned us that snakes are becoming active in this season and that only tiger snakes have been seen. He reports that no eastern browns have been sighted for over 25 years. That's useful information, if reporting a bite to the vet.

He said that because tiger snakes like to eat frogs, they are likely to be near the waterways and wetlands, especially at dusk and at night. They're less likely to be around the leachate ponds, as the water is not suitable for frogs, though I do notice one of the snake locations is smack in between the leachate ponds.

He warns us to beware of snakes sunbathing anywhere during the day and that they are slow to get away at this time of the year. That might be why Penny and I had a super scary encounter with a snake that didn't move off the path in May last year - a day that was so cool I was unprepared to step over a snake. We had a a less traumatic one last November.

The thing I really, really appreciated was information about how to become aware of a nearby snake. Amongst other things, Peter said to look for constant localised chattering of birds - the birds will have the snake in immediate sight. And of course, the traditional warning we all listen for - movement and rustling of clumps of grass.

Hmmm... that sure sounds like what was going on in the corner of our garden last week.

There's a most informative article about snakes in our area written by Raymond Hoser, who runs Snake Busters and obviously respects and likes these reptiles. In part he says:
These snakes tend to live on the ground and rarely stray from the ground to climb.
The two circumstances where the snakes will climb are as follows:
To catch birds in a nest in a tree or other high structure.
The snakes are generalists in that they feed on any vertebrate and even in the wild state will eat pieces of discarded meat and chicken as dropped by a human.
Tiger Snakes are a deadly species and their venom attacks the nervous system.
While they are slightly slower moving than the average snake, they can still move fast when warm and agitated. Bites commonly occur when people try to catch and kill them.
Decapitated snakes may still bite the person attacking them.
As a rule, Tiger Snakes will attempt to bite if cornered or an attempt is made to kill them. In this regard they are one of the more aggressive species, hence the advice to lay people not to deal with them
Maybe the blackbirds were reporting a hunting snake - the next day their nestlings were all gone from the nest. The optimist in me hopes they are safe somewhere in the garden...

There's a tiger snake photo at another site and some advice about removing water from around the house in order to discourage reptilian visitors.

But I'm not going to take away the water. It's so dry now that I think the birds and small creature would suffer if the constant supply of water suddenly dried up.

However, I will clear away that pile of old plant pots. Carefully!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Australian leader of the opposition is a dog blogger

Since I started Penny's blog I've found lots of interesting people who like to write about life with a dog. It was a surprise, though, to see a story about a prominent Australian dog blogger on page one of mx - a daily paper designed to be read on the evening train commute by people who've lost half their wits during a long, tiring day at work.

Malcolm Turnbull, the Leader of the Opposition, was accused of updating Twitter posts about his dog blog during Question Time in Parliament.

Of course I took a look around the Net to find his dog blog. Call me easily influenced, if you like, but this is one of the few times I've warmed to a politician. I really liked the posts I read.

I particularly liked the one about Embarkation Park. Jojo the dog (aka Malcolm Turnbull, or whoever writes it - can't quite get rid of the cynical attitude to politicians, unfortunately) quotes one of my heroes in the fight to protect the millennia-long bond between dogs and humans - Clover Moore, whom I've written about previously when she proposed a bill to ban the sale of dogs in pet shops. On Turnbull's blog she is quoted as saying
"regular off-leash exercise helped dogs socialise and release pent-up energy, reducing nuisance behaviour such as uncontrolled barking."
Recently there has been an endless, fraught debate about the use of some of the local Darebin Parklands for off-leash exercise of dogs. Seeing the vital role of off-leash exercise mentioned on the blog of the Leader of the Opposition gives me heart that this issue has some powerful supporters.

Friday, 17 October 2008

dogs and cats living together

This last week has had a cat-flavor to it - not literally, thank goodness - Penny hasn't eaten any cats.

Penny gets excited when she sees a cat, and I have always worried a little that she might jump on one (especially the next-door cat, who likes to stroll around our front garden and tantalise Penny, who can't get out the front).

When we were at training last Tuesday, at K9 in Lilydale, I was interested to hear from Cindy, our teacher, that the Coldstream animal shelter runs cat-desensitisation programs for dogs. I suppose it's mainly for the shelter dogs, but I might ask whether Penny could also have some training. I told Cindy that I sometimes pat the next-door cat near our front door while a family member rewards Penny in the house for watching calmly. Cindy warned me to never hold a cat in that situation, as I might get some serious injuries if the cat suddenly panicked.

I was talking to Cindy about cats because a friend who was visiting me that morning had just received a sad phone call from her daughter, who had been minding a friend's dog. The visiting dog suddenly lunged away from her (inside the house, and on lead) and grabbed her cat by the head. In the ensuing chaos, the dog bit her badly and the cat ran off and hadn't been found, last I heard.

It's possible it will be a tragedy for both the dog and the cat.

Today we visited the home of our GSD friend, Jabari. A cat lives there, and Penny was in the room with the cat for about fifteen minutes before she noticed it. I drew her attention away from the cat and towards me about five times and rewarded her for quiet behaviour near the cat. When it looked like the cat was sick of having a big doggy face peering up at her - and seemed to be getting ready for a sudden swipe with her claws - Jabari's mum took the cat out.

I've read an article at Dog Owners' Guide about teaching dogs to live with cats. I think it has some good advice but it involves holding the cat, which I wouldn't do. Also, having heard how quickly a dog can leap on a cat, I'd be wary about having the dog in the room with the cat unless the cat was up high (which Jabari's cat was), or behind a barrier like a baby gate, or in a crate.

Science Daily reports a study at Tel Aviv University that concluded cats and dogs can learn to read each others' body language, despite the differences between these two species, but it did involve adopting the cat before the dog and also bringing them together when they are young.

The routine suggested in VeterinaryPartner seems sensible, and takes weeks to get the two animals used to each other, which seems to me a to be a realistic time-frame.

Of course, this advice is for people intending to have a cat and a dog live together, which I can't see happening here. However, I'd like to think we could progress to the stage where Penny was neither a danger to cats nor in danger from them.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Today is blog action day, dogs included

I was reading through the 88 Ways to DO Something About Poverty Right Now and I've chosen number 52, which is to visit the Hunger Site every day for the next month and click on it.

We are also going to have one meat-free evening meal in each of the next four weeks and donate the price of a meat meal to Oxfam (one of my favorite charities because it helps people to help themselves and because it often works with women). Seeing Penny's going to be in it also, we'll have to put our thinking caps on - perhaps we can come up with a meal for her involving eggs.

Friday, 10 October 2008

dogs and jigsaw puzzles

We give Penny as many activities as we can to keep her brain active, but it's also good to find things to do to keep our own brains going. So when I received a newsletter from About Seniors today, I followed the link to puzzles and discovered a possible new addiction - online jigsaws.
There are lots of topics but of course I tried out the dogs topic first. Here's one that I think looks a bit like Penny:

Click to Mix and Solve

There are hundreds of puzzles and you can set the number of pieces or the shape of the cut.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

picture of Penny on Slavenka's blog

It was a lovely surprise to come across a picture of Penny on Slavenka and Obi's blog today. I read their blog every day and usually get a good laugh. Though today I was saddened by the post about Terry Pratchett's illness.

However, the one about the family with dog watching the scary movie is fun, and so is the wonderful dog-walking umbrella.

Penny's clustrmap after one year of blogging

Penny doesn't know how many people have visited her blog in the first year of its existence - and, let's face it, maybe she doesn't actually care all that much. Life is satisfactory as long as her bowl has interesting food in it; walks have lots of places to sniff; humans dispense treats from crinkly plastic bags; and the squirrels (whoops! must have been indoctrinated by Rusty - I meant possums) stay up in the trees.

However, I'll admit I love looking at the red dots on my map. I study the far-flung dots and wonder what it must be like to live in those places.; I look at the nearby ones and memorise the dogs so I'll recognise them if I see them. (Now, that's really dreaming, from someone with a memory like mine!)

[Thursday 9th: I woke up a couple of minutes ago in the middle of the night and thought, 'What was I talking about in that post? You can't memorise dogs when you're looking at dots!]

So I feel a bit disappointed that my red dots have to be archived after a year. Maybe one day I'll be so experienced that the archiving of my red dots will be a ho-hum moment. But not yet...

So, I've included my old map on the right-hand side of my blog, below the new one.

dogs with blogs and blog action day

It's only a week now until Blog Action Day. This year's topic is Poverty and I can't think of a more important theme in this unequal world.

There's a guy who busks in the underground passage that leads out of one of our main city railway stations and he always has his dog with him. He probably thinks I like his singing, but in fact I always make sure to contribute something so that he can afford to look after his dog. I don't know whether the man is living in poverty, but I guess singing in a cold concrete tunnel wouldn't be his first preference for a job, so I assume times are hard for him.

I ask myself whether blogging about poverty can make a difference, but I've decided to join the Action Day, because the more we talk about the injustices in this world the more we become alert to ways in which we can make a difference.

I care a lot about dogs, but I also care about humans.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

sick humans and comforting dogs

Penny's been on sick-room duty this week, because one of her humans - me - succumbed to a virus and needed a comforting furry body to lie on the bed with her. It's lucky that dogs can't catch human viruses. I went to the doctor last week and he basically said I had a viral cold, which just had to run its course. It has been a pretty mucky course, I must say, but Penny didn't seem to mind the towering hill of tissues that grew beside the bed. Thank goodness she seems to be growing out of her love of strewing tissues all over the place.

Here's a picture of how she comforted another member of her human family last year.

Monday, 29 September 2008

dogs in the squirrel patrol

Penny is now a member of Rusty's squirrel patrol. She's been waiting for weeks for her human to show off the lovely certificate that proves she's a member but a little 'technical problem' has held up the works - how to turn the certificate the right way round. And then, today, in a stroke of brilliance, her human noticed a little arrowy thingy that looked as if it might do the trick, and it did!

Hmm... then there was the new technical difficulty of finding where the turned graphic had hidden itself. Let's think... could it be in the folder called 'downloads'? Yep, there it was.

Oh, no! It had turned itself around again!

Okay, never say die - import it into iPhoto, export it out to the desktop and, hey presto! there it is.

But one important thing - Penny will be practising on possums for now, until squirrels arrive in Australia.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

should dogs go to heaven if they won't 'give' to their humans?

Right after I blogged about Penny being in disgrace for refusing to give up her smelly stocking, I came across a funny spoof debate on Bark Blog about whether dogs can go to heaven if they've been naughty - actually, it's about whether they can go to heaven at all.

The church-sign generator looks like fun. Here's mine:

dogs learning to 'leave it' or 'give' it to their humans

Our neighbours might have wondered what was going on in our backyard tonight, because they probably heard my increasingly desperate commands to Penny to 'leave' a delicious tidbit she had found, or to 'give' it to me.

I got so worried I shouted for someone in the house to come and help me wrench it from Penny's mouth. But no-one heard - a lesson that our houses are so soundproof that shouts for help might not be heard. Scary thought.

She was recently on a course of antibiotics for a week because the vet thought she had a bowel inflammation. It was only after I came home from that vet appointment that I had a horrible thought, too scary to even write about here. I remembered that in mid-August, I had lost a nylon stocking whose toe was stuffed with cabana, cheese and other smelly treats.

Why would I have such a strange thing? It was used to lay a great-smelling track for Penny to follow.

Why would I forget where I had put an object so dangerously tempting to a dog? I don't know.

I've had a niggling worry for weeks as to whether she had found it and eaten it. My friends must have got tired of me asking them whether they think a dog would eat something like that; whether it would go through her digestive system; whether it would show up on an x-ray; whether I should ask the vet; whether she would be still pooing if she had a nylon stocking in her gut.

You get the picture? I've been driving everyone crazy by mentioning it every time I start to worry.

Well, tonight I learned the answer: yes, a dog WOULD eat it if she happened to find it, even if it were so old that it had turned into a disgusting slimy mass.

Yes, she would absolutely refuse to give it back and would try to swallow it as quickly as possible if she thought her human was trying to steal it.

Yes, the stocking would start to tear apart if the human tried to pull it back out of her dog's oesophagus.

When I look at the photo and see how far into her mouth the stocking had gone - you can tell the part that is damp - I thank heaven that some intuition made me leave my dinner and go outside to investigate what she was doing outside at a time when she's usually keeping an eye on her humans while they eat.

Top of my to-do list is to be shown once again how to force a dog's jaw open. The vet did show me but in the dark and in the stress of the moment I couldn't do it.

One great result of tonight's fright is that now I can stop worrying about where the stocking is. It's in the rubbish bin and out in the street for collection.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

poisonous plants and dogs

Penny was watching from inside the front door as I weeded the front garden this afternoon; she doesn't get out the front because we don't have a fence along the street. I was pulling out a plant that looked like choko and I wanted to make sure I wasn't discarding a useful plant, so I took a well-earned break and searched on the internet 'plant with milky sap looks like choko'.

I'm glad I did, because this plant definitely has to go. It is poisonous to animals and harmful to people. A Weed Fact Sheet from the New South Wales Government says,
It is suspected to be poisonous to cattle, poultry and dogs. The sap can cause skin irritation and severe allergic reactions in susceptible people.
I guess I'm not a susceptible person, because I've pulled out heaps of these plants, in our own garden and on weeding sessions in Darebin Parklands. Confession time - I'm really, really silly, because I sometimes garden without gloves.

After I read the scary stuff I washed the sticky gooey stuff off my arms and hands and donned gloves. The Fact Sheet says to dispose of the seed pods by bagging them and 'disposing of them safely', so I thought I shouldn't put the plant in the green waste bin. I put the whole thing in the rubbish bin.

Now, it may be a weed, but what's a weed after all, except a plant that we don't want to see growing where it does? I know Peter, the Ranger in Darebin Parklands, hates this particular weed and the Fact Sheet certainly shows what a pest it would be in our lovely bushland oasis.
It is also becoming more widespread in southern Victoria, particularly in and near Melbourne...
they reduce indigenous biodiversity. They do this by degrading the homes or habitat of indigenous plants and animals, thus
contributing to the extinction crisis both locally and globally.

BUT... it's so beautiful if you open the fruit.
I know I'm not the only one who thinks so, because I found a flickr member who took a picture of the beautiful seeds, one that captures the iridescence of the hairy tops, as I couldn't do.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

home hairdressing for dogs

This evening I visited a friend who has a maltese with beautiful silky white hair. My friend showed me how she trims her dog's facial hair between grooming appointments. It seemed simple enough, so when I got home I recruited help to feed Penny treats and hold her steady while I took my first tentative steps towards trimming her at home.

We decided to give it a go because her hair is always across her eyes and we think it must be annoying her. Also, my vet said he doesn't like hair that can touch a dog's eyes.

Here's Penny before the big event. She wasn't feeling too good when this was taken, as it was last week after the annual vaccination that might (or might not) have made her sick.

And here she is after her amateurish haircut. We'll have another look at it tomorrow and trim a little more - maybe.
It was surprising to see how calm she was about having me wave scissors around her face. I guess that's the payoff for all the work we've put in since she was a baby to make her like being groomed - treats, treats, treats! The road to Penny's heart!

We did use blunt-ended dog grooming scissors, by the way, and held her muzzle gently as a mother dog would hold her puppy.

There's a good series of video clips on grooming dogs at Expert Village.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

lumps, bowels and doggy illnesses

Penny's been keeping us on our toes lately. She had her annual vaccinations last week, one of which which should protect her from distemper, infectious hepatitus and parvovirus; the other from bordetella brontiseptica and canine parainfluenza.

Well, I think that's what they were - the teensy tiny stickers on her health record are hard to read, even with my glasses on!

That evening she threw up five times. I rang the local animal hospital and the vet said to keep an eye on her and gave me the phone number of a local all-night clinic. However, she slept through the night okay.

We didn't, though.

In the morning my own vet examined her and he thought she was more likely to have vomited because she had a bowel inflammation. (She had been having jelly-like material in her poos on and off over the last few weeks.)

He put her on antibiotics for a week, which are nearly finished now.

It's hard to know what to do for the best for our beloved animals. There are lots of internet sites with scary stories of pets' reactions to vaccinations, and I did check out lots of such sites when I posted last year about the concern that we over-vaccinate in Australia.

I thought Dog Owners' Guide seemed to have a reasonable overview of the question. Basically they referred to vomiting as a severe reaction, but said we should still have the vaccinations with the proviso that the dog might need to take antihistamines or the leptospirosis part could be omitted.

They discuss (but not in detail) recent research that suggests we should vaccinate less frequently.

As I write this, Penny is frantically licking her paws. She tends to have a problem with her paws, so it's not a new issue, but I feel sure she's doing it more these last couple of days. So I'm interested in a site that suggests paw licking can be a reaction to vaccinations.

And to top off our worries, when I got home from the vet after the vaccination, I noticed Penny had another lump - this time on the top of her head. It's not long since she had one removed from her chest.

The vet said it would be safer to remove it, but not to worry about rushing into it. I'm fairly sure it is getting smaller every day. At first it was as big as a pea, but I think it's only pin-head size now. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

dog owners work together as a community

It infuriates me to see dog poo lying around on our streets or in our parks. People who don't pick up after their dog are lazy or dirty as far as I'm concerned.

When I see someone who is ignoring their dog's defecation, I ask myself whether they haven't noticed or whether they just don't care. If they look approachable, I might say, 'Would you like a bag?' if I have a spare one with me. But mostly I don't say anything if I'm alone.

I'm wondering how I would go if I lived in the villages of Denny or Dunipace, in the UK. They've set up a Green Dog Walkers project, in which volunteers will approach pet owners to ask them to sign a pledge to clean up after their animals. If people join the campaign they'll wear an armband that says they are green dog walkers.

I can't really see it working here in Melbourne, but I ask myself why it shouldn't. I think it's because we are such a big city and there's a creeping sense of anonymity in my area. I used to know everyone in my street but now most people don't even make eye contact.

Yet dog walkers do.

Maybe it could work...

I read about this campaign at the blog of Dogs Life, our Australian dog magazine. I've been reading it for years but just now realised it has an online component.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

dogs on leads in busy streets

Even though I'm an advocate of the necessity for dogs to walk off-lead beside their humans on an everyday basis, I certainly don't mean to suggest a busy street is a place for that freedom.

Today was full of excitement - of a kind I could do without.

In the morning I took three dogs out for an on-lead street walk because their owner is not well - they were Bonnie, an elderly mutt who is a regular visitor to our house; and two gorgeous West Highland terriers who don't know me. All went well until I looked down and realised one of the westies, Scruffy, was wandering along beside us not attached to his lead. He had backed out of his collar.

I think I might have stayed calm if we hadn't been near one of the busiest roads in our neighbourhood -Bell St in Heidelberg. Scruffy danced away from me and raced towards Bell St. What to do? I hurried the other dogs to their home, on the corner of that road, grateful to a man who was dashing towards the busy highway to try to head Scruffy off. I thrust them inside the gate and was surprised to hear the other man say, 'Well, that's okay, then.'

What? I looked around, and there was Scruffy with the others. He had darted inside when I opened the gate.

It took me a long time to stop shaking and realise that all's well that ends well, but eventually I drove off towards Reservoir.

As I stopped for the lights at the massive intersection of St George's Road and Murray Road, I was horrified to see two little 'white fluffies' - probably maltese crosses of some kind - playing in the middle of the traffic.

Not straying near the traffic - PLAYING in between the masses of cars and trucks that were travelling through the intersection. The two little devils were chasing each other between the vehicles.

( I took the photos of the intersection at St George's Road after the two little dogs were safe, so they're not in the picture.)

So I parked my car as close as I could, grabbed a leash and checked my pockets for doggy biscuits.

But they weren't going to be caught. They were having too much fun. I got the council ranger's phone number from a nearby business and called for help.

An hour later it was safely resolved, thanks to the help of a passer-by who played with them and fed them my treats in the - unfenced - front yard of a nearby house.

Guess what? The ranger knew them. They've been out before. As far as I'm concerned, some people don't deserve to have a dog. I'm not going through that intersection again if I can help it. I don't want to see a little white body in the gutter.

What a day! It would be a relief to go for a walk at relaxing Gardiner's Creek with Penny and her friend Jabari. I headed along busy Manningham Road towards Blackburn.

And there he was - a THIRD dog roaming off-lead near a busy street. A black labrador. I zoomed to a halt in the car park of a nearby school and fumbled for doggy biscuits. Lucky I'd restocked my pocket.

Once again, no way was this dog going to let me near him. Worn out by the stresses of this doggy day, I rang Jabari's mum and poured out my story to her.

'Is he on the road?' she asked.

'No,' he's near some fences.' By this time he was barking fiercely at me.

'Okay, get in your car and leave,' she commanded. 'That's the sound of a dog on his own territory.'


'He's not lost. You can't help.'

She was right. As I plodded towards my car and the patiently waiting Penny, the dog slipped through the palings of a fence.

Today has convinced me. The days of groups of carefree children roaming the streets with their dogs are gone. Our streets are too dangerous.

All the more reason to value those places where dogs and people can stroll along together, safely distant from traffic. We need to make sure our community developers plan for off-lead walking areas for dogs and their humans.

Monday, 15 September 2008

a war on dogs?

During the weekend I read a feature in The Age newspaper's Good Weekend magazine. It was by Frank Robson, who with his partner is sailing Australian waters, accompanied by their dog, Lucky. I've previously posted about the book he wrote about Lucky. I enjoyed it and recommended it as a light-hearted read for any dog lover.

In this feature article he's mainly recounting the misadventures they had while sailing, but Lucky gets a mention once again; I was struck by the following section:
Twice a day, whatever the weather, we take Lucky ashore for toilet breaks. We always clean up after him, but refuse to be cowed by Australia's official war on dogs: if all the no-go zones were observed, dogs wouldn't be seen anywhere except sulking in backyards, which is crazy.
I'd say, from reading blogs from around the world, that the question of no-go zones for dogs isn't just an Australian issue. It seems as if the whole world has begun to believe that the only safe dog is one on a leash, walking at most half a metre from her owner's leg.

I think this is partly due to the increase in motor traffic, but to me it's also a result of the culture of over-protection.

When I was growing up, it was usual for dogs to ramble around the streets with groups of children, all having fun together. Nowadays, you're not likely to see either the children or the dogs. The kids are 'safe' inside their houses, cocooned in a sedentary lifestyle that is probably going to cause massive health issues in the decades to come. The dogs are lying around waiting for the magic moment when their people take them on an outing, all too often a boring promenade over hard street surfaces in a haze of car exhaust fumes

There seem to be two issues: one, keep the dog on lead to save her from danger; two, a dog on lead will be less of a danger to passing humans.

Vilmos Csanyi, in If Dogs Could Talk, says,
Dogs are very conscious of having a leash, and for them this is not a form of restraint or a symbol of slavery as is believed by enthusiastic liberals who know nothing about animals.
To a certain extent I can see what he means: Penny loves her lead and seems to think it's her way of making sure she's got her person coming along behind her.

But I also see how she quivers with joy when we reach the part of the park where she knows she can go off-lead.

Terry Ryan and Kirsten Mortensen, in Outwitting Dogs, discuss the leash from a dog's perspective:
To a human, a leash is a device to manage a dog - to keep a dog nearby; to prevent a dog from running off after (or away from) a car, bike, or critter...for a dog a leash is a sensory experience - it's what causes pressure on the dog's collar or harness...this leash sensation doesn't mean anything inherently.
One thing I'm sure of - I get more exercise if Penny is walking off-lead beside me, because she races to keep up with me. But if she's on lead she wants to investigate everything we pass.

I don't think she's deliberately being contrary, because dogs just don't think that way. But it sure seems like it at times.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

working together in Darebin Parklands

Penny sniffed our legs when we got back from the Darebin Parklands today, checking where we had been. She was probably wondering whether we would head back with her, but she was out of luck. We were worn out from all our work there and she'll have to wait till tomorrow to see how many native plants we put in this afternoon.

However, one lucky dog came walking past during the afternoon and of course I took the chance to slack off and say hello.

Every time I go planting in the park I learn something new. Today I reckon I saw the best garden implement ever. Peter, the park ranger, has made a contraption that goes on what I think is a chain saw motor. It has an auger on the end of a metal pole - and it digs holes in hard, dry ground! Fabulous doesn't even begin to describe it - with drought an ever-present reality, gardening has become more back-breaking than ever it was in the past. (And, sad to say, I'm not young any more.)

After the working bee (or should I be more modern and call it 'park care day'?) there was a party to celebrate thirty-five years of community action by the Darebin Parklands Association.

It began with a welcome by Uncle Reg Blow, an Aboriginal elder, member of the Darebin Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Council and facilitator of the Darebin Parklands Spiritual Healing Trail. (It was his son who led the group of pilgrims around the spiritual healing trail on 11th July).It was a highlight of the afternoon listening to the thrum of the didgeridoo against the whisper of eucalypt leaves and the chatter of rainbow lorikeets.

On a more mundane note, another highlight was the dee-licious cake that was the centrepiece of the celebration party.